Secretary of State John Kerry is heading back to the Middle East as the Obama administration attempts to bolster regional efforts to reach a ceasefire and sharpens its criticism of Hamas in its conflict with Israel. The State Department said Kerry would leave early tomorrow for Egypt where he will join diplomatic efforts to resume a truce that had been agreed to in November 2012. In a statement this evening, department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the US and international partners "deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation, and the loss of more innocent life."
The Obama administration has toned down its earlier rebuke of Israel for attacks on the Gaza Strip that have killed civilians, including children, although both President Obama and Kerry expressed concern about the rising death toll. The US will urge the militant Palestinian group to accept a ceasefire agreement that would halt nearly two weeks of fighting with Israel. More than 430 Palestinians and 20 Israelis have been killed in that time. Cairo has offered a ceasefire plan that is backed by the US and Israel. But Hamas has rejected the Egyptian plan and is relying on governments in Qatar and Turkey for an alternative proposal. Qatar and Turkey have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is also linked to Hamas but banned in Egypt. Click for more.